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Two suicide prevention programs kick off in Southern Indiana

Two hands touch, one holding the other. The image is in black and white.
National Cancer Institute
Suicide prevention initiatives in Southern Indiana are aimed at providing support to those who have lost a loved one to suicide, and raising community awareness.

LifeSpring Health Systems recently launched a Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors group, to provide resources after friends or family lose a loved one to suicide. A second group, the Floyd & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition, is aimed at community awareness.

Mental health advocates in Southern Indiana have launched two programs aimed at preventing suicides and providing support to those impacted.

Team S.P.A.R.K. is the local arm of the Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) program. It’s offered through LifeSpring Health Systems, which has several locations in the area. Coordinator Ellen Kelley said the goal is to provide crucial support to people who have lost someone and may be more vulnerable to self harm.

“If someone dies by suicide and you don't talk to the survivors about what other options this person had, you're almost saying, ‘OK, suicide is the way out,’” she said. “You've got to talk about it.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the ripple effects can go beyond immediate friends, family, classmates and coworkers. The alliance reports a 2016 study estimated more than 100 people are touched by a single suicide, with one in experiencing “devastating impact.”

LifeSpring CEO Beth Keeney said in recent years, Clark County has had between 15 and 25 suicides annually.

“And so those are 25 people with friends and family who are further traumatized by these preventable deaths,” she said. “And so if we can find a way to really reach people with that help, if we can disrupt that process, we really save our community a lot in terms of unnecessary loss and trauma.”

That’s something Kelley and others in the community want to counteract, through Team S.P.A.R.K. and another community-based program.

The Floyd & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition, started in 2015, has recently re-launched. Kelley, who chairs that program, said that’s needed with suicide rates in Southern Indiana exceeding the statewide average. Indiana is also ahead of the national average.

The group focuses on education, awareness and reducing stigma.

Kelley said invisible pain and illness deserve the same care as issues that have visible symptoms.

“If I went to work, and I had red blotches all over my face, my coworkers would say, ‘oh, my gosh, what's the matter?’” she said.

“But if I go to work, and I exhibit signs of depression, people don't know what to do, and so they don't do anything.”

She said it’s important to help people understand that mental health is on par with physical health, and give them tools to help, like offering QPR training, which stands for question, persuade, refer.

“And…we need to talk to people, we need to approach people, we need to help them,” she said. “That's what the answer is going to be.”

Keeney said both initiatives are needed.

“Suicide is 100% preventable,” she said. “And so having these mechanisms in place, both that teach friends and family and neighbors what to look out for and how to respond, how to get somebody the emergency care that they need.

The next meeting of the Clark & Floyd Suicide Prevention Coalition is Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., with QPR training in the first hour. It will be held at 404 Spring Street in Jeffersonville.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 9-8-8, the new suicide and crisis helpline.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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